Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. Though devils may resemble a small dog, these nocturnal animals carry their young in pouches and are more closely related to wallabies than canines.

Danger

Tasmanian devils deliver the strongest bite for its size of any mammal in the world. Their oversized heads allow them to open their jaws up to 80 degrees wide and their jaws carry enough brute force to crush bone. They can bite through the strongest of metals; even break the cages of livestock and other animals. Devils use their incredibly strong and powerful jaws to consume game or roadkill without any leftovers – they eat every part of their prey. 

They have a bit of a disturbing feeding habit. These mischievous little critters like to fall asleep iso they can wake up and continue eating. Though it sounds a little gruesome, by eating animal carcasses, Tassie devils actually help to keep areas hygienic and free from blowfly maggots.

They have born in the size of Rice grain

A mother Tassie gives birth to around 20-40 joeys at once. However, these joeys have to race to her pouch, which only has four teats. Talk about a hard start to life! Because of their tiny birth size, the ones that make it will live in their mother’s pouch for roughly three months.

Sad part

Tasmanian devils have been considered to be endangered species since 2008; one of the primary causes being hit by cars when they attempt to retrieve roadkill. In addition, a facial tumor disease is spreading through the population. The tumors build up in affected animals’ mouths and stop them from eating. Tens of thousands of Tasmanian devils have died since the disease appeared in the late 90s.

LIFE SPAN

5 to 8 years

YOUNG

Gestation: 21 days; young remain in mother’s pouch for about 4 months

Number of young at birth: Up to 50, but only a maximum of 4 survive in the pouch

Size at birth: About the size of a grain of rice

Age of maturity: 2 years

SIZE

Length: 23 to 26 inches (57 to 65 centimeters)

Tail length: 9 to 10 inches (24 to 26 centimeters)

Weight: 11 to 30 pounds (5 to 14 kilograms)

FUN FACTS

Tasmanian devils have been described as the vacuum cleaners of the forest, as they mainly eat animals that have already died. The Tasmanian devil is also called the Australian hyena for its nosy scavenging habits and its powerful bone-crushing teeth. Would you recognize a quoll, numbat, little red antechinus, fat-tailed dunnart, mulgara, dibbler, kowari, or a wambenger if you saw one? These are all animals that are related to the Tasmanian devil.

Since 1996 the Tasmanian devils living on Tasmania have been threatened by contagious cancer called devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), which produces large, often grotesque tumours around the head and mouth. The tumours grow large enough to interfere with the animal’s ability to eat, resulting in starvation. This, in combination with the deleterious physiological effects of cancer, leads to death, usually within several months of developing the disease. The origin and cause of the cancer are still of some debate; however, scientists speculate that it is caused by a unique line of infectious cells derived from Tasmanian devils and that the cells are transmitted when the animals bite one another, such as during mating battles or when scavenging for food. The Tasmanian devil’s immune system does not recognize the cancer cells as foreign and therefore does not attempt to kill them. Quarantine of healthy Tasmanian devil populations, captive breeding programs, and establishment of healthy populations on nearby islands are several ways in which scientists hope to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction, and in 2020 Australian wildlife officials began the first step of reintroducing the Tasmanian devil to the mainland by transferring about 30 healthy animals to a wildlife reserve in New South Wales. 

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